Lighting in Computer Graphics

Introduction

Lighting in Computer Graphics refers to the placement of lights in a scene to achieve some desired effect. Image synthesis and animation packages all contain different types of lights that can be placed in different locations and modified by changing the parameters. Too often, people who are creating images or animations ignore or place little emphasis on lighting. This is unfortunate since lighting is a very important part of image synthesis. The proper use of lights in a scene is one of the things that differentiates the talented CG people from the untalented. This is not a new topic as a large amount of work has been done on lighting issues in photography, film, and video. Since Image Synthesis is trying to emulate reality, we can learn much from this previous work.

Lighting can be used to create more of a 3D effect by separating the foreground from the background, or it can merge the two to create a flat 2D effect. It can be used to set an emotional mood and to influence the viewer.

In this section we will discuss the different types of lights usually available in a CG system, how lights are used in film and video, and how they can be used in CG. For a more in-depth discussion, see "Pixel Cinematography: A Lighting Approach for Computer Graphics (SIGGRAPH 96 - Course 30)"

Available Lights in CG Systems

Lighting in Film and Video


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Last changed November 02, 1998, G. Scott Owen, owen@siggraph.org